A/N- Well, here it goes. My first foray into Red eye 'fic. To those of you who are regular readers of my other stories, I am so sorry; I've been submerged in DRL, and haven't had much time to do anything. Anyways, this story is probably going to be updated erratically at best. Sorry! Feel free to leave a review with concrit.

Upon waking, the first emotion Jacksonbecame aware of was bemusement. Cold, sharp anger did not invade him. Acute, cold, needle-pointed rage did not flow through his system. He was not even aware of the pain that throbbed throughout his entire body for a moment, most sensitive at his throat, chest and stomach. He was only aware of a sense of dizziness and a question that floated to present itself at the forefront of his mind: Why am I still alive?

He did not force his mind to remember. He did not make his heavy eyelids open. For a few seconds, he was content to drift, lost in the nexus of his own mind, falling.

He slowly began to recognize things around him. He could hear the quiet, hushed murmurings of people in a hallway not far from him. He could hear someone breathing somewhere close to him, but before he could peruse this thought, it drifted lazily away. He could feel without opening his eyes that he was lying in a bed. The pain made him shiver slightly before he calmed himself. He recognized the stiffness of a gunshot wound; he'd had many of those before. There were blankets around him: the thin, cheap kind that no one keeps in their home.

And then he could discern smells. As soon as he breathed in with his nose, he knew it was a hospital. He could tell from that too-clean odor, that awful sterile smell that fooled no one. He could also smell the rancid sickness that it barely covered, like a cheap air freshener. But there was something else in the room that he could make out, some other sweetened fragrance that was familiar to him...

Lavender. Soft, sweet, comforting, vulnerable... lavender brought back a flood of memories for him. The job. Charming the girl (Lisa, his mind whispered). The job. Her attempts to resist him. Intimidating her. Touching the pale scar on her pale breast. The pen. Anger. Pursuing her. The gunshot and then blackness.

So, he was still alive. And he had failed. This thought brought no despair or rage to him, surprisingly enough. Only bleakness, and weariness.

And then, another emotion entirely. She was still sitting there, he realized. What was she doing, here at his bedside? She loathed him, must loathe him, had to. Had she come to gloat?

He remembered more about Lisa. He remembered her eyes when he had charmed her. She really had beautiful eyes, he realized. He remembered being attracted to her, in more ways then one, and then shoving that attraction aside for the sake of the job. He remembered hating her for what she had done, and understanding at the same time.

More than that. He felt himself yearning to reach out and touch her, to trace longingly, tenderly her skin. He found himself bound with chains of tenderness, a tenderness which he had never experienced and never wanted to. He found himself wanting to taste every inch of her skin, every single inch and then to dominate it all, to possess her completely. He wanted her to scream out his name, and whether it was in agony or pleasure did not matter all that much...

But he felt more than twisted, convulsed desire. Emotion rose in him, dizzying, terrifying. There was something pure buried in all that ugliness, something that was threatening to break free from the chains he had put on it. It was something he could not afford; it was a weakness, a sickness for which there was no cure. It filled his chest, made him swallow with dread. The woman sitting serenely next to him had more power over him than anyone he'd met in his life.

This revelation left him stunned, angry. It made his fists clench underneath the cheap hospital blankets, made his heart rate increase with rebellious defiance. He would not allow her to have that power over him. He could not. He convinced himself, with slow and absolute certainty, that he felt nothing towards her, that she was just another woman. If she was nothing to him, he could crush her... Did he not feel himself slipping back into the same patterns of revenge? Did not the thought of the bruises he imprinted across her flesh make him feel a very real thrill?

He opened his eyes, tired of his mind slipping over those same weary patterns. For a moment, gray and white specks and blurs spun dizzily in front of his eyes before they coalesced into panels. Off-white panels with gray and blue dots on them. He heard a slight rustling of fabric beside him, a quiet brush of clothing. Every sense felt hyper-aware, heightened to extremes. Every sound echoed with a thousand reverberations before fading away. Each individual color stayed imprinted on his mind for a few seconds.

He grew weary of waiting for her to speak. He could feel her presence beside him. It wasn't body heat, the slight breathing or even the calm lavender that he noticed. She had a very real presence, and it pervaded his senses, seeping through his body like ice-cold water...

He attempted to speak, but only managed to gasp and emit horrible rasping sounds. Still she did not move, did not respond, and he attempted to slowly move his neck.

The sight that met him was not altogether extraordinary. She was wearing a light blue flowery skirt that swept along to just below her knees, allowing him just a glimpse of lightly tanned smooth skin. Her blouse was a pearly white, short-sleeved and buttoned up as far as it would go.

His gaze roved to her face. Her eyes were fixed downwards, as if she was avoiding his eyes on purpose. Her auburn curls rested lightly just against her shoulders. They framed a startlingly innocent, fresh face that was relaxed, at the moment. Her features were softly carved from delicate wood. He could make out her green eyes, could observe the solid strength in them that he had awoken.

Seeing her aroused anger in him, stirred the flames that had burned down to mere ashes. The pain all around his body was rekindled as well. And there was something else... that pure, unadulterated beam of light that frightened him. He made one more attempt to speak again, a garbled, mangled growl.

And then she looked up.

------

Lisa was not sleeping well at night. It was nothing that she was not used to, and nothing that she had not expected. But it was still frustrating. The worst part, she thought, was that sometimes they weren't even nightmares in the traditional sense.

She dreamt of those blue eyes, that cut through layers of flesh and bone to see everything that she had tried to hide from herself. She dreamt of those fingers, cold and professional yet somehow strangely tender. She felt those eyes and those fingers dancing over her body in a strange duet that exhilarated and frightened her. She dreamed of his face, of his blue-frost eyes warming...

She woke screaming, always, even when the dreams were pleasurable. For they always ended the same way. The hole would appear in his neck and, the bullet wound in his side and he would fall over onto her, and the blood would soak through her clothes and through her skin...

Jackson Rippner. She wondered sometimes if that was even his real name, but then dismissed her doubts, remembering the solemn look in his eye as he had told her. The police had apprehended him, and had placed him in the hospital for healing. The officer that had spoken to her had not met her eyes. She wondered if he could have answered her unspoken question: Where do I heal?

She hated Jackson, that was for sure. She loathed his smirk, the way he was cold and calculating with her. She detested the way he had been the catalyst for her strength, how he had dug to the bottom of her soul and touched the right chords for her explosion. And, most of all, she hated the way his lowered voice could give her chills. She hated the fact that his cerulean eyes sent a myriad of sensations racing up and down her body.

But most of all, she hated him because he made her feel. She had been numb for so long that she had almost forgotten what it was to cry, or even to laugh or scream. She had retreated inside herself ever since her rape. She had formed a shield around herself, around her innermost being that she had sworn would not be broken.

He had not only broken it, he had shattered it. He had trampled on the delicate equilibrium that she had been living in. He had been like a sudden burst of color across the blackened night: blinding.

She did not really know why she had been dragged back here. She had felt numb all the way up the hospital elevator, talking to the guard who kept her nemesis here. She had requested the privacy of shutting the door, and he had nodded, even if his glance had been somewhat suspicious.

It had not been guilt that had caused her to come back. Time had seemed to slow as she walked through the door, as her eyes slowly lit upon the bed. Seeing his broken, bruised, mangled body had given her neither satisfaction nor pity. Seeing him vulnerable was more unexpected than anything else. She did not know what she had been expecting, but it was anything but this man lying on a hospital bed sleeping.

She did not weep, did not break into hysteria, did not even feel anger. Only a pale sense of astonishment, and the knowledge that she had been irrevocably changed.

Almost against her will, a hand of hers had reached out to touch his cheek. It was surprisingly warm, not cold as she had expected it to be. She had thought he would be marble; to discover that he was flesh was astonishment itself. As she gazed upon him, she found herself amazed to discover that he was human. She wondered for a long time, gazing down at her hands, how she had the power to destroy.

And then he woke up.